Bogor, Idonesia - A global human rights group has raised the specter of bloodshed at Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Church during services this Sunday, saying the congregation had received threats from the local community.
Amnesty International, in a statement released on Thursday, said the congregation feared for its safety after it was sent a letter dated July 2 from residents of Curug Mekar village, where the church is located. The letter reportedly called on authorities to put an end to all religious services and activities by the congregation.
The congregation has been holding services on the street in front of its half-built church since the Bogor administration bowed to public pressure and revoked the permit for the building in 2008.
Some residents have claimed the services disrupt traffic. Last week, dozens of people gathered outside the church to demand the congregation take their services elsewhere. A community leader warned of “anarchy” if the warning was ignored.
Amnesty International said the authorities should “take adequate measures to guarantee the safety of the Taman Yasmin congregation, in accordance with their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
The group also urged the government to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all reports of intimidation, harassment and attacks against congregation members, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards.
The Bogor administration should also comply with the Supreme Court ruling in December that ordered the church site be reopened, it added.
Bona Sigalingging, a spokesman for the congregation, said they would continue to hold services on the street until the church was reopened.
“The opposition to our street-side services is directed at the wrong place,” he said. “The protests should be directed at [Bogor Mayor] Diani Budiarto.”
Bona was quick to say most Bogor residents respected religious freedom. He blamed Diani and his administration for turning this into an issue by first pulling the church’s building permit and then whipping up public sentiment against the church.
“Now residents are being told to challenge us by objecting to the use of the street for services,” he said.
Most of the protesters last week were from groups like the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami) and the Islamic Students Association (HMI).
Bona said business interests were also behind attempts to close the church. “There are many business centers on Jalan Abdullah, along with housing complexes, a hospital, government offices and shopping malls. And there is a plan to open a toll road nearby.”